There are still three NBA playoff spots to play for and all three are in the Western conference. The importance of Sunday’s match-up between the ninth place Utah Jazz and sixth place Golden State Warriors carries very high importance. The Warriors have a chance to book their first playoff place since 2006-07 with a win in this game, while the Jazz are desperate for every victory they can get sitting just a half game back of the eighth place LA Lakers.
At the beginning of March it looked like Utah were falling out of the playoff picture with the Lakers passing them into the playoff places. The Jazz’s slump was predicted by many, but after winning just three games out of 16, Utah has shown plenty of playoff spirit and playoff fight winning six of their past seven games. During that period they have picked up a couple of huge road victories beating both the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers on the road.
Big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap continue to be the key for this team. They are decent offensive players while being physical on the boards and decent defensively. However, contributions from other players have been just as important during their strong recent run. Gordon Hayward knocked down 23 points in their most recent victory over the New Orleans Hornets. Mo Williams knocked down 20 against Portland a few games ago and Randy Foye scored 26 against Brooklyn on March 30. The Jazz won’t care who contributes at this point in the season. They will only know that they need to win at least four of their final five games to reach the playoffs.
An 8-12 run put Golden State into a little bit angst over the past couple of months and even raised questions about their own playoff status as they looked in trouble while being chased down by the Houston Rockets and LA Lakers. However, they’ve now won nine of their past 12 games and it is now a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ for Mark Jackson’s team and the NBA postseason.
Steph Curry is the danger man for a shoot-happy Golden State line-up. He is fast developing into one of the best scorers in the NBA and has been firing pretty well of late. Curry scored 30+ points five times in the month of March. This is a team with depth though and it will be very interesting to see how David Lee and his fellow inside men handle themselves against Utah’s big interior.
Betting Preview: Golden State (-5.5) vs. Utah
As the playoffs draw nearer it becomes harder and harder to predict the way in which games will be played. Both of these teams should feel a sense of anxiety and a sense of urgency. I think there is a good off-court and a good on-court reason to pick Utah in this match-up.
The off-court reality is that the Warriors are a win over the Jazz away from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That’s six years and a big deal for this franchise. They are likely to feel tense and a little nervous. The off-court reality for the Jazz is that they have to aggressive and have absolutely nothing to lose as a team that doesn’t currently own a playoff place. They are going to bring it to this match-up.
The on-court reason to expect Utah to win this game and obviously beat the spread is that if this game take on a more tense ‘playoff-style’ match-up then the shooting percentages might well go down and that should benefit Utah. They are going to dominate the inside in this match-up and their improved guard play of late will add further encouragement for this team.
The Pick: Jazz (+5.5) [5dimes.eu]
Writer Record Against the Spread: 9-4